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Fic: A House is Not a Home Chapter Three

Chapter 3
“Joanie, we need your help.”  Dean had barely opened the door and crossed the salt line of the motel before speaking.  Sam was right on his heels and not looking happy.
Joan looked between the brothers.  They were both dead serious, so… “For your job?”
“If you don’t have one of your own,” Sam was offering an excuse.  Whatever they had in mind, Sam didn’t really want her to do it.
Joan was too honest to turn them down flat.  “No, I don’t.  What about Billy?”
Dean wasn’t worried.  “It’s just a little B&E.  I’ll hold him while you climb through the window.”
Joan’s eyes narrowed.  “B&E?  Since when have you two needed my help with B&E?  This isn’t a test for what you’ve been teaching me, is it?”
“Nah,” Dean dismissed that idea quickly.  “You aren’t good enough to use those skills yet, though you really need to practice.”
Joan ignored the little dig.  She wasn’t sure she should learn how to pick a lock, despite Dean’s prodding.  “Why do you need me?”
“The window is too small for either of us to climb through.”  Dean gave her an evil grin.  “You can still wear your skirt if you want.  Sasquatch, here, is going to be the one lifting you up over his head.”
Joan glared.  Dean was a pain on more occasions than warranted and she had grown up with two brothers.  “And what will I be doing after I open the window?  And why on earth can’t either one of you open the door, Mr.-I-can-pick-any-lock-in-under-ten-minutes?”
Sam finally joined the conversation.  “The door is barred shut from the inside.  We’d need a battering ram to get in.”
“Why do you need in?”
“We’re pretty sure that our ghost is buried in there.”
Oh.  That was reason enough.  She glanced at Billy.  He was napping on the bed behind her.  If the boys were gentle, he’d stay asleep for an hour more.  “Okay.  I’ll change into jeans.”  The skirt was more comfortable for the hot spring days of Alabama where the boys were currently ghost hunting, but if she was going to be crawling through windows and watching a salt-n-burn, she’d change.  Joan tried to make it quick, but Dean was still pacing impatiently as she exited the bathroom.
“Stupid skirt,” he muttered.
“Get over it,” Joan shot back.
Sam wisely kept his mouth shut.
Billy awoke and murmured and grumbled a bit before Sam strapped him into his car seat.  The familiar rumble of the Impala’s engine worked better than a lullaby to put him back to sleep.  Dean drove them to an abandoned but a very well-constructed barn.  He was the one to get Billy out of the car seat and lead the way to the faded red structure.  Unlike most of the farm buildings in the area, including the ones still in use, this one was not falling apart at the seams.
“Supernaturally held together?” Joan asked Sam.
Sam shrugged.  “It’s possible.  Or whoever buried Dora Eisenberg didn’t want her unearthed accidently.”
“Are you sure that the salt and burn will work?  Is she sticking around waiting for her killer’s justice?”
Sam shrugged again.  “We’re not sure, but this is our best bet.  We haven’t found any evidence that the man who was lynched for her death really didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“I know.”  Sam smirked at their like-mindedness.  “I checked and rechecked.  I can’t find anything that was falsified or made-up evidence for a frame up.  I can’t find anyone else who would have wanted her dead.  No motive.  Her ghost isn’t giving us any clues either.”
“Joanie!  Let’s get a move on!”  Dean yelled from the other side of barn.  “I don’t want you and Billy to be here after dark.”
“The big brother calls,” she grinned at Sam.
Sam could return the smile honestly.  He followed her around the building to the back.  Dean was waiting and jiggling a giggling baby in his arms.  “There it is.  Sam and I already unlocked it.  There’s a set of stairs that you can roll right on to.  They looked really sturdy, so don’t worry about it, okay?”
It was funny how fast Dean could go from irritating ‘commander’ to ‘mother hen.’  “I’ll be fine,” Joan was quick to reassure him.
Sam was waiting for her, his hands linked together to form a stirrup.  “Allyoop?”
Joan looked at him and deliberately didn’t think about the time she’d failed to join the cheerleading squad and they’d tried to make her climb onto the pyramid.  She trusted the tall man this much.  She set her foot in the stirrup and shifted her weight.  (And tried to ignore the moment when her stomach was next to his face.)  The next moment, Sam lifted her higher, Joan kept her balance by leaning against the barn.  Sam kept lifting and lifting.  Darn, was this high, but Sam was steady as a rock.  With Sam fully extended, the window was at Joan’s chest.  She pushed it in and stuck her head through.  The stairs were there just as Dean had reported.  Joan tried to grab purchase somewhere to get leverage to pull the rest of her body into the building.  It took a couple struggling tries before she could finally push off Sam’s hands on the other side.  Even then, the window was a close fit.  (Her hips had definitely gotten wider as a result of Billy’s birth.)
She was a bit embarrassed that Dean and Sam were probably watching her on the other end.  “Dean?”
“What?”  He sounded worried.
“Are you watching my butt?”
He laughed.  “Nope.”  He was too cheerful to be lying, she was pretty sure.
“Is Sam?”
“Yep!”  Very cheerful.  And since Sam hadn’t denied it, Dean was telling the truth again.  In true matchmaking form, he was telling the truth when it was convenient for him.
Finally, she pulled the rest of her body into the dark, dank, smelly barn.  The one window didn’t allow for much light.  She could see the bar on the door.  That was not going to be fun.  “I’m going to go open the door now.”
“Be careful,” the boys chorused.
“Oh, I am,” Joan promised.  “Even against those evil rusted out nails.”
“Lockjaw is not funny, Joanie,” Dean grumbled.
She made her way down to the ground floor cautiously.  The barn squeaked and groaned ominously.  Joan had too much experience with the Winchesters to ignore the warning signs.  “Guys,” she said just above a whisper.
“We’re right here,” Sam said back.  He was directly on the other side of the wooden slats.  “We should have given her a shotgun and some salt,” he muttered.
“She does have some salt, right Joanie?”
“Right.”  She wrapped her hands around the thick salt packet she had stuffed into her jeans’ pocket.  How odd was it that she had automatically stuffed salt into a pocket when she had changed into jeans?  She had been on the road with the Winchesters for a while.  Carrying salt was second nature.  She tore open the packet and edged toward the door.
Joan made it without incident, although the worrying creaks of the old building had her heart racing by the time she reached the door.  The young woman lifted the bolt with effort and the two men outside pushed inside.  Dean handed Billy off to his mother.  He didn’t even need to hurry her to the car and to safety.  Joan had had quite enough of the creepy barn and its noises.
Dean was worried.  He hid it much better than Sam usually did, but she’d been on the road with the Winchesters for a few months now and she had nothing better to occupy her time with than learning how to read the two of them.  Besides, Sam wasn’t answering his phone and he’d been missing for twelve hours now.  It wasn’t exactly a leap of logic to conclude that he was worried.  She was worried too.  He’d gone out for dinner and pretty much stepped off the face of the earth, as far as Dean could tell.
He was currently burning through the minutes on Joan’s prepaid cell, calling contact after contact to see if they’d heard anything from him.  Dean’s phone was kept open in case Sam called.  Billy had been put down for the night a few hours ago, which left Dean to growl quietly or go outside.  Since going outside meant leaving them unprotected, at least in Dean’s mind, he settled for the quieter option.
The door slammed open just after she’d taken up the phone to call her own handful of contacts.  She felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up, and had time to think, ‘huh, always thought that was just a saying’ before turning to face the door.
Sam was standing there, casually leaning against the doorframe.  More specifically, Sam’s body was in the doorway, staying just outside of the carefully laid salt line, something dark and smug and malevolent churning just behind his handsome face.
“Well, isn’t this cozy,” the thing wearing Sam said, and Joan took a step back, physically recoiling from the spite and malice rolling off of him.  Sam’s eyes raked over her body, a cold smirk that was completely out of place forming, and Joan could feel those stubborn five pounds of baby weight standing out like someone had painted them in fluorescent orange.  She wrapped her arms around her body in an instinctively protective gesture and glanced at Dean, who was standing at sudden attention.
“Christo,” Dean said, his body coiled with tension, and Joan wasn’t surprised to see hazel eyes turn black.  “You get out of my brother,” Dean snarled.
The demon laughed.  “I’ve got a better idea,” it said, reaching back and producing Sam’s gun.  “I think I’m going to shoot you first.  A nice gutshot so you can bleed out nice and slow while you watch.  Then I’m gonna kill Sam’s little bastard spawn and his plain little whore before I shoot baby brother in the head.”
“Like hell,” Dean swore, his hands clenching into fists.
“And how are you planning on stopping me, Dean?”  It twirled Sam around in a strangely delicate and feminine pirouette.  “Can’t do anything without damaging this fine packaging.  No devil’s trap this time, and I doubt a moron like you memorized an exorcism that you can spit out in the 30 seconds you’ll have before I can manage all four shots.”
Joan was suddenly furious, far more angry than frightened now.  How dare this thing threaten Billy?  “You get out of him and leave us alone!”

There was a split-second mingling of rage and confusion before Sam’s head was thrown back and a cloud of black smoke poured out of his mouth.  She had just enough time to catch the horrified expression on Sam’s face before everything turned grey and faded out.
When she opened her eyes again, she was lying on the motel room bed.  Billy was fussing, clearly unhappy about something, and her breasts felt swollen and heavy.  Right.  She needed to feed him.  Joan cautiously pushed herself up into a sitting position and found herself immediately surrounded by Winchesters.
“Hey,” Sam said, looking concerned and guilty and sad as he stood next to the bed.  “We were starting to think we need to take you to the hospital.”
She shook her head.  “Just tired.”  The young woman reached for the baby in Dean’s arms, and Dean handed him over.  “You guys want to turn around while I get this going?”  Sam flushed red and Dean rolled his eyes, but they both turned around.  Joan got her shirt and bra off in record time and started feeding Billy, sighing with relief as the pressure started easing.  She covered herself with a blanket before she resumed talking.  “Everything’s taken care of?”
“No trace of the demon that I could find,” Dean said, turning back to face her.  He grabbed one of the chairs from the table and sat down.  “So what happened?”
“I don’t know.”  Joan looked over at Sam, who was fidgeting a little and refusing to meet her eyes.  “It wasn’t Sam.  It was standing there and it was wrong.”
“So what did you do to get rid of it?”
“I don’t know,” she repeated.  “I really have no idea.”
And that scared her almost as much as the demon had.
Joan ripped her eyes away from the book she was reading when an amulet was dangled in front of her face.  “What’s this?” she asked, snagging it from Dean.
“Bobby’s suggestion.  He says they should keep us from getting possessed until we can get something a little more permanent.”
“Cool.”  There was sudden, stark relief on her face.  Sam’s possession had hit them all hard.  She slipped the leather cord around her neck, flipping her hair out from under it.  “What kind of permanent are we talking about here?”
“Bobby mentioned that tattoos are the best bet.”
Only the fact that she wasn’t currently drinking anything kept her from executing a spit take.  “Are you insane?  I can’t get a tattoo!”
“Sure you can,” Dean told her.  “Sam’s out scouting for a really reliable place right now.  As soon as Bobby finds a good symbol to use we’ll all go.  Jewelry can be ripped off in a fight.  It would take some real effort to remove a tattoo.”
“My mother would kill me!”  The young woman turned red as soon as she said it, clapping her hand over her mouth and breathing deeply. 
Dean wanted to comment, he really, really wanted to, something along the lines of, ‘But she’s all right with the illegitimate grandchild and the two scruffy drifters that are helping raise him?’  But Joan’s family was still a sore point with Sam’s little girlfriend and that kind of comment was not the way to get her to go along with their plan.  Instead he waited for her to calm down and process.  She and Sam had almost the exact same temper, but Joan had a slightly better control over it and if you waited out her initial knee-jerk reaction you could usually convince her to see reason.  Usually.
“Will this help keep Billy safe?”
Dean didn’t hesitate.  “It can’t hurt.”
Joan sighed.  “You can never tell my mother. “
Ellen took one look at the scared, scrawny girl with the baby-shaped bundle and thought one thing: demon possessed.  It was a gutsy demon at that.  Did it truly expect an entire bar of hunters to fall for such an obvious ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’?  But then the two closest hunters in the Roadhouse muttered ‘Christo.’  Nothing happened, the girl never even paused in her step.  Surely this wasn’t a regular, human, Little Girl Lost?  Ceria, one of the very few female hunters, reshuffled her Tarot cards and dealt again, this time concentrating on the girl.  The answer was apparently easy to decipher and Ceria was awestruck.  Her jaw dropped and her eyes went wide.  Ellen had seen Ceria take a six-year old girl turned into a werewolf in stride.  She had never seen anything faze that hunter.
Ceria tried to shake off her awe.  She stood and motioned to the skittish girl.  “Why don’t you come, sit by me?  Let me buy you a drink.”
The girl whispered her thanks and sat where Ceria indicated.  “Water, please.”
Ceria nodded to Ellen, who was now the one standing with her jaw dropped.  Ceria was a hunter that was accepted by the men because she never showed any weakness; babying this stranger would be considered by some as weakness.  Ellen retrieved the water and sat it next to the girl.  She hoped the hunter wouldn’t mind that the girl had received a bottle of holy water.  A cautious hunter was a live one, after all.
Again, the girl said, “Thank you.”
Ellen peeked over her shoulder and glanced at the baby.  She was surprised that he was awake and so quiet.  “Cute kid,” she was trying to break the ice.  “Got a name?”
“Billy, well, really William, but we call him Billy.”
That kind of babble didn’t belong in this bar; it was so innocent and young.  Had Jo ever babbled like that?  This girl had to get out of here before some of the men eyeing her acted on their second thoughts.  “You got someone coming to pick you up?”
The girl got this deer-in-the-headlights look.  “I hope so, I mean, I think so.  Yes.  They’ll come.”
“If they don’t come, I’ll take you on the next leg of the journey,” Ceria offered.
Civilly.  Would wonders never cease?  Ceria rarely spoke civilly to Ellen and she was ‘in the business.’  Ceria could be down right cruel to the uninformed.
“That won’t be necessary,” the girl said kindly.  “But thank you.”
“You don’t belong in here,” Ellen blurted out.
“I’m just passing through.”  The girl looked at Ellen with soulful brown eyes.  Honest eyes.  “We all are.  Even you.”
“I own this bar,” Ellen corrected her.  “I stay.”
“Times change.  Nothing stays the same.  You have to be flexible or you shatter.  Don’t hold too tightly to a shelter made of wood.”  Ellen had never been in the presence of a true prophet, but now she wondered.  Ceria was listening closely, intently.  Was this what she had seen in the cards?  The girl turned to Ceria. “You need to be flexible too.”
“I’m very flexible.”
The girl observed Ceria’s short hair, lack of jewelry and make-up, and unflattering clothes.  “You’re afraid of being a woman.  You can do your job and be a woman too.  It will make you more balanced.”
Ceria looked to be considering it.  “Would you like some food?”
The girl was surprised, then chagrined.  “I… uhm.”
No money.
“My treat,” Ceria said.  “How about a hamburger?”
The girl finally accepted.  “Okay, uhm, sure.”  Then she looked around.  “Uhm, where is the ladies’ room?”
Ellen said the directions and the girl smiled her thanks.  As soon as she disappeared around the corner, Ellen and two other hunters looked over Ceria’s shoulder at the Tarot cards.  Ellen didn’t see the pattern even after a couple minutes of studying.  It didn’t look like anything she had ever seen before.
Buck huffed predictably.  “There’s nothing there to reason babying the whelp.”
Stephen, the oldest hunter currently in the bar, shook his head in awe.  “One of the Chosen.  Do you think she knows?”
Ceria tapped the second to the last.  “She’s used the power in our realm.  Probably exorcized a demon with her own words.”  
“How do you know that?”  The girl was back; her (very pale) face and hands washed.  She was clutching her baby close.  Ellen noticed that there was no wedding ring.
“You mean that you did?”  Buck wasn’t the only one who was incredulous; he was just the first to speak the words.
“It was an accident, I swear.  It was hurting a friend and I… I got mad and yelled at it.”  She shrugged an ‘I don’t know’ gesture.
“And then it was gone.  It was fu… freaky,” a new, cheerful voice said from the doorway.  Ellen and all the others turned to look.  It was the Winchester brothers.  Dean, of course, was speaking and grinning.  “So how do you like the new members of our family, Ellen?”
“I hope God makes it hail on your car,” the girl sniped at Dean.
Dean promptly went white and put his hands up in surrender.  “Now Joanie, there’s no reason to play dirty.”
Sam was carrying a diaper bag and smirking at his brother getting had by this slip of a girl.  He weaved his way through the tables and held his hands out for the baby.  He smiled at her and murmured something.  ‘Joanie’ handed over Billy without a doubt or hesitation.  The girl made her way back through to Ceria’s table.
She plopped down in her previous seat and used her thumb to indicate Dean.  “You can make him pay for my hamburger.”
Ceria was shaking her head, but Dean cut her off as he approached in full care-taker mode.  “Joan, are you hungry?  Go ahead and get something.”  He already had his wallet out to hand Ellen money for her sandwich.
“It’s on me,” Ceria forestalled him.
Dean turned dark.  “We don’t need charity.”  That was the stubborn Winchester pride.
“I need the karma points.”
Dean couldn’t argue with that.  He still handed Ellen money.  “I’ll eat two and I’m sure Sammy will have two or three.”  He frowned at the Tarot cards.  “Please put that away.”
Ellen wondered if he could read them.  Ceria tucked the cards into her coat pocket and Dean relaxed slightly.  What did it mean; to be one of the Chosen?  No one had ever told her.  Clearly they could exorcize like nobody’s business.  Ellen did know that the Chosen tended to be ignorable and rarely did one know that they had crossed the path of one.  Why had that changed?  Why declare this Chosen one now, in this place?
Sam returned from the back, the baby snuggled against his shoulder and the (black, leather) diaper bag in hand.  Ellen wondered if the boys had insisted on the type of bag because they knew that they would be carrying it around.  To her extreme surprise, Sam didn’t give the child back to his mother, but sat next to her.  Joan smiled at him when he sat down and scooted her chair closer to speak quietly with him.
And a Chosen.
If –and Ellen admitted that it was a big if- Sam went evil, Joan could pull him back immediately.  Sam and Dean Winchester had been chosen to protect a Chosen.
And that just blew her mind.
Ellen decided life would be easier if she just went and threw the boys’ hamburgers onto the grill.  The Chosen ones of good and evil both needed dinner.
The Winchesters stayed on until early evening, talking to other hunters and sharing intel on some of the hunts that they had handled since they’d last come around.  It was equal parts information gathering and bragging rights, a familiar form of hunters’ banter that this place was known for.  Joan didn’t volunteer much, but Ellen heard her tease the boys a little during a few of their stories and watched as she absorbed the tales from the other hunters.  Whenever someone asked a question about Joan, Dean would jump in with some other tidbit that changed the course of the conversation.
When the Impala pulled out of the parking lot, Ellen hadn’t learned anything more about the girl than had been uncovered in her first few minutes.  She tried to question Ceria, and the female hunter had brushed her off with typically salty language before admitting that she had promised Dean she wouldn’t discuss it.
Unknowns unsettled Ellen.  They meant trouble.  And the words that Joan had spoken before her protectors had arrived bothered her even more.  She found herself gazing around her bar and wondering.  It didn’t take too much work to gather anything of value –sentimental or otherwise- and put it in a storage unit.  She also upped the insurance on her place.
For the first time in her life, she was glad that Jo was out on the road.  She was a moving target as opposed to Ellen’s stationary one.
Chapter 4



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2014 12:11 am (UTC)
Rereading this since I'm procrastinating at my finest level right now. Love the interaction with ceria
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )